UPDATE May 2016: Please note that this post was written in 2014. For 2016, the museum hours and pricing have remained the same and they have many exciting events and activities planned for the summer months. Get the latest information on the museum here.
Thank you to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for providing me and my family with complimentary museum admission. All opinions are 100% my own.
If you are a Mommy (or Daddy) of little ones, then I can bet that a few times during the week (maybe even every day) you spend time with a picture book in your hand.
My kids are constantly walking around tugging on my leg and asking me to read to them. When I’m able, nothing makes me happier than getting a chance to snuggle up with them on the couch and read a few of their favorites.
Over the years, I feel like I’ve become a bit of a connoisseur of children’s literature, finding books that I love myself and enjoy reading over and over. Right up there at the top of my list is pretty much every book by Eric Carle. His artwork is beautiful and creative and his books are a pleasure to read. So when I discovered that there was an Eric Carle Museum located right over the border in Massachusetts, it was a destination at the top of my outing list.
Then a few weeks ago I was visiting the doctor’s office for Sweetheart’s 18 month check-up (I can’t believe she is that old!) and her pediatrician and I began chatting about my blog and fun places to take the kids. He said, “Have you been to the Eric Carle museum? You HAVE to go.” He was totally excited to tell me about it and I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t just a museum about Eric Carle and his art and books, but a museum dedicated to picture book art in general. Well his enthusiasm about this destination made me realize I needed to go soon and I quickly contacted the museum to see if I could schedule a visit. And we finally made our way there just last week.
From our home in West Hartford, Connecticut, it took us a little over an hour to get to the museum. The map below shows the most direct route, but we actually got off of 91 a little bit early so that we could drive through the Mt. Holyoke Range State Park.
The museum sits on a beautiful piece of property which is also home to an apple orchard.
Parking for the venue was easy and FREE. The lot was located close to the front entrance.
Once inside, we headed to the admissions desk to check-in. The cost for a visit is $9 for adults and $6 for children (1-18), students, teachers and seniors. They also offer a great family pricing option. For $22.50, entrance can be received for 2 adults and 2 children.
As we checked in, I took a look at the quote displayed over the desk:
It has been our dream to build a museum for children and families, teachers and librarians, scholars, and everyone interested in the art of the picture book – museum to delight, entertain, surprise and educate. ~Eric and Barbara Carle
Right near the check-in area was a coat room. There we could hang our coats (of course) and leave other items we didn’t want to carry around. There were even lockers (FREE) if we needed a little more secure storage options.
After we got our things situated, I took a look around.
The museum was open and airy but not overwhelming in size. The nice thing was that the space was all on one floor so using a stroller would be easy.
The main hall was full of these bright, beautiful pieces by Eric Carle and at the end of the hall was a giant caterpillar. Of course the kids spotted the caterpillar immediately and began making their way towards it. Nothing was holding them back from seeing what that was all about. So off we went!
The caterpillar was of course from one of Eric Carle’s most famous books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The display was loaded with picture books and a little seating area inside where they could read. (P.S. – The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day will be at the museum on March 23, 2014).
Right next to the caterpillar reading nook, was a cozy space loaded with even more picture books, the museum’s reading library.
Inside they had books galore and even a whole section dedicated to Caldecott Medal Winners. Now, I didn’t know anything about this award before my library visit, but now I know that it is awarded annually “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” When Bruiser saw the cover of the 2014 winner, Locomotive, he was beaming ear to ear. This boy is absolutely obsessed with trains these days. Obsessed!
The space was full of books to read, cozy places to snuggle up and enjoy them, and puzzles and games to keep even the littlest ones entertained.
Throughout the week, this space is also home to the museum’s story time program. This program is offered on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Right next to the library was another beautiful space, the museum’s Carle Cafe.
This area has both an indoor and outdoor space available for museum guests to enjoy a meal or just a yummy treat. The only food offering sold onsite is from the museum’s healthy vending machine. Guests are free to bring their own food or pick up food from a local venue like the Atkins Farms Country Market (sandwiches, soups, salad bar, etc.)
For all you coffee lovers, the museum does offer FREE coffee in the cafe (but please note that food and beverages can only be enjoyed in the cafe or on the museum’s grounds).
The cafe also has booster seats and high chairs available.
And since they are located right outside the cafe, I just have to take a quick moment to mention the restrooms. Whoever designed these, did a great job making them parent and child-friendly. With baby changing stations and child-sized restrooms and sinks, it was easy to get all three of my little ones in and out without a problem. The design of the restrooms also incorporates hand-painted tiles of some of Eric Carle’s most popular characters. An adorable touch and a great way to keep the kids entertained!
Restrooms are located near the cafe and near the museum’s entrance.
As we finished up our restroom tour, I started to wonder where the meat of the museum was – the art galleries. I really wasn’t quite sure. The kids had been rather entertained so far with the main hall, the reading library and the cafe. I guess it was time to find the museum’s heart.
We headed back towards the entrance and there it was. Right in the middle of the main hall, between the library and the check-in area, was the entrance to the museum’s 3 galleries.
When we were visiting, only two of the three galleries were open as the third gallery was being re-done for a new exhibit that will open March 18, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber.
But the West and Central Galleries were open during our visit.
The West Gallery was full of the art of Eric Carle and his latest picture book, Friends. It was so interesting to learn about Mr. Carle’s artistic process (I thought he was only a painter, not true!), his history, and a look behind the scenes of his latest book development.
The Central Gallery was filled with details and artwork from a book with which I wasn’t familiar. Natalie Merchant and Barbara McClintock’s book, Leave Your Sleep. In 2010, Natalie Merchant released an album of original songs based on a selection of children’s poetry. Later, she partnered with artist Barbara McClintock to turn the poems into a beautiful picture book. I was excited to learn that both Natalie Merchant and Barbara McClintock are actually coming to the museum this Saturday, March 15, 2014 for a book signing. I wish I had time to go back!
Now you might laugh because I only have one picture from our gallery visit and it is just of us walking through the main door. The museum actually does not allow photography in the galleries (the material is extremely delicate and copyrighted). Probably better anyways. I don’t want to already have shown you everything!
Right about the time we finished in the galleries was also the time one of the daily short films was beginning in the auditorium. We headed down to check out Eric Carle, Picture Writer. Though my kids didn’t make it all the way through the film, it was a great opportunity to learn more about Eric Carle and his artistic process.
Our last stop on our visit, was at the museum’s hands on art studio.
Another beautiful space and a great place to put to use all of the artistic inspiration the kids had received so far!
The art studio is open daily and offers an art project for children of all ages along with a variety of play spaces for younger children.
When we entered the studio, we received an overview of the day’s project and a tour of the variety of art materials and work spaces.
Sparkles and Bruiser got busy choosing their materials and creating their masterpieces.
And while her older brother and sister were busy with their art, Sweetheart enjoyed exploring the toddler area and the variety of play spaces.
After a lot of convincing, I finally got my little ones to agree to leave the art studio and get ready to head home. Of course we had to make another bathroom trip before we left (I’m not sure if that was because they needed to use the restroom or just wanted to check out the tiles again). We also had to make another stop at the library so Bruiser could stare lovingly at his new favorite Locomotive book. The museum was also gracious enough to give us a copy of one of Eric Carle’s latest books, “What’s Your Favorite Animal?“. The book is amazing and includes the work of 14 different picture book artists as they answer the question, what is your favorite animal? This book will be the feature of an upcoming exhibition starting April 8th in the West Gallery and I can’t wait to bring the kids back to see it. I may also get my kiddos to participate in the upcoming exhibition by submitting a picture of their favorite animal here. How fun would that be to have my little munchkin’s art displayed at a museum!
I hope you get a chance to visit this beautiful museum and learn a little more about the art of picture books and some of their famous artists. Our visit certainly gave me a new perspective on my daily reading material!
Phone Number: (413) 658-1100
- Monday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm (during July and August only)
- Tuesday to Friday 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
- Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Sunday 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
- Open Monday through Friday during the Massachusetts February and April school vacation weeks
- Holiday Closures: Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
- Adult: $9
- Youth (1-18), Student, Teacher, and Senior $6
- Family (2 adult and 2 youth) $22.50
- Children under 1 are FREE
- Memberships are available
- Museum passes may also be available through your local library’s museum pass program
- Use of the library, films in the auditorium, and use of the art studio are all FREE with museum admission
- Stroller Friendly: YES. The museum is not large, so a stroller may not always be needed, but the space is definitely stroller friendly. The museum is all on one floor, so no need to worry about finding elevators. Also, if you need to borrow a stroller during your visit, just ask at the front desk.
- Coffee Mug Friendly: YES, sort of. FREE coffee is available in the Carle Cafe. Coffee (and all other food and beverages) can only be enjoyed in the cafe, though.
- Baby Changing Station: YES. Restrooms are located near the art studio and near the cafe and all offer a baby changing station.
- Parking: FREE parking is available in the museum’s convenient lot.
- Food for Sale: YES, sort of. The cafe has a healthy vending machine available for the purchase of snack items and drinks. If you are looking for additional food options, I would highly recommend taking a quick trip over to nearby Atkins Farms Country Market.
- Outside Food Allowed: YES.
- Cash Required: NO. Cash and credit cards are accepted for museum admission. The healthy vending machine in the cafe even accepts credit cards.
- Dress Code: None. Though you might want to check and see if they have a messy art project going on in the studio before dressing your little one in one of their finer outfits.
- Evening/Weekend Hours: YES. The museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays. It closes at 4:00 pm during the week.
TIPS & THINGS TO BRING:
- Consider visiting on a day when they offer story time programs. The programs are FREE and currently offered during the morning on Tuesdays and Fridays, and during the afternoons on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
- Check out their list of upcoming programs and events (many of them are FREE with museum admission).
- Natalie Merchant and Barbara McClintock will be doing a book signing on Saturday, March 15, 2014
- The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day on Sunday, March 23, 2014
- There is only limited food available for purchase on site. Bring your own lunch or pick up lunch from the local Atkins Farms Country Market.
- Check out the list of current exhibitions.
- Check out their list of upcoming exhibitions.
Meet Our Sponsors!
- 4D Vision Gym – A vision training center located in Cromwell, CT where Dr. Juanita Collier, MS, OD and her staff show members how to utilize Vision Therapy to correct visual issues and make leaning and playing easier and more fun.
- The Annie Fisher Montessori Magnet School – Offers children ages three to twelve years old a free, public Montessori education implemented to the highest standards set by Association Montessori Internationale.
- The Independent Day School – Located on a rural campus in Middlefield, CT this private pre-school, elementary and middle school, serves families from over 20 communities.
- Kathryn Deane Photography – A natural light photographer located in West Hartford, CT and specializing in maternity, newborn, child, family, and senior portrait photography.
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